Jet Aviation St. Louis has chosen U.S. Army Specialist Chad Hembree as the recipient of its Wounded Warrior award—a new Harley Davidson motorcycle customized by the business jet completion, modification and repair facility. Here at NBAA 2013, the Harley Street Bob serves as the centerpiece at Jet Aviation’s booth (No. N1932) and a tribute to Hembree’s courage and valor.
Hembree, now 22, spent five brutal days and four sleepless nights in 2010 on an Afghanistan mountainside, engaged in what would prove the most intense and bloodiest series of firefights of his life. Still recuperating from back injuries, PTSD and assorted other injuries from the battle, the decorated specialist insisted that honoring his fallen buddies serve as the theme of a customized motorcycle. Hembree plans to ride the bike in the Patriot Guard, an organization that attends the funerals of members of the armed forces, firefighters and police. The group also greets troops returning from overseas at homecoming celebrations and performs volunteer work for veteran’s organizations.
Originally expecting a 24- to 72-hour mission, Hembree felt something amiss the day before he boarded a Chinook helicopter to “air assault in” to a mountaintop some 3.75 miles away. After assembling Alpha Company following a week off patrols, platoon leaders delivered an unusual message: “Our Number One goal on this mission is to bring everybody back.”
“They had never said that before,” said Hembree. “That was always our game plan, but we never had to say it. That really was not normal. It gave us an eerie feeling about this mission.”
Hembree’s suspicions wouldn’t prove unfounded. By the mission’s third day, he and his fellow soldiers fumed over what they considered indecision and poor planning on the part of command officers, who at one point argued about the best course of action while the men stayed low behind minimal natural defenses. In the end, five days of furious fighting left seven fellow soldiers dead and only 13 of the 40-man company capable of walking off the mountain. “Hell came down on top of us,” recalled Hembree.